The One Secret to Holding a Transformational Strategic Planning Retreat

Marissa Levin
Marissa Levin
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Oliver Wendall HomesStrategic planning retreats often have a bad reputation. An executive team takes the company or a group of key stakeholders off-site for a few days to share the company vision, and put a plan in place for moving to the next level of growth.

In theory, this is a great idea. In reality, the excitement and engagement that employees develop at the retreat quickly disappears once everyone returns to the office, and they have to focus on their “real work.” The retreat is then seen as an expense and waste of time that felt good in the moment, rather than a smart investment.

I have a secret for facilitating truly transformational strategic retreats. Using a set of tools I have developed for Successful Culture’s TransformU™ system, I guide employees through the process of taking personal responsibility for carrying forth their specific element of the company mission. The CEO may set the mission, but it is the organization’s job to achieve it.

How does this occur? It starts with education about the values, vision, and mission of the organization, competitive differentiators, target customers, and market analysis. Then, through a series of exercises, every employee learns how to craft their own personal mission statement as it relates to the mission of the company. Instantly, the intention shifts from fulfilling someone else’s mission to fulfilling their own mission.

Once each employee has developed their own mission statement, they read them aloud. They publicly commit to their own missions. Then I work with each stakeholder individually to create a personal action plan.

The end result is the development of a Mission Map™ which shows how all employee missions link back to the organizational mission, and how they link to one another.

To ensure these missions continue to drive employee behavior and organizational outcomes, we institute motivational activities back at the office that drive accountability.

8498871d0c463c74a185402608f2fcdbThe one thing that should never happen at any company meeting, and especially a strategic planning event where leadership is asking for buy-in from employees, is for employees to feel as if they are being “talked at.” I always think about the teacher in the Peanuts/Charlie Brown cartoons. I would never want my employees – or the employees of my clients – to think of that voice when attending a company meeting.

Discussions about organizational growth should always be a two-way conversation. If you’re asking an employee to step up and support your mission, they have the right to be heard. They should feel empowered to own their contribution to mission fulfillment. I’m not suggesting decision by consensus, but employees and key stakeholders bring tremendous vision and value to the strategic planning process, and to the overall process of mission fulfillment.

Empower your team to fulfill their own missions, and you will have loyal & engaged employees for life.

I’m proud to share a testimonial from a client that recently hired me to facilitate their strategic planning retreat. I LOVE this work!! I love helping my CEO clients grow into their greatest personal and organizational potential, and create cultures of high engagement and accountability. Seeing their transformations is the most fulfilling work I have ever done, and I am so grateful for the trust my clients have in me.

I hired Marissa Levin (who is also my business coach) to help me with our annual retreat with my staff. We took off for 1.5 days and went to Middleburg. Marissa facilitated the retreat. She prepped for it by getting staff input on what our SWOTs were. Also- she got a survey out to my team to ask them what they are looking forward to achieving at the retreat. Once we were there, I presented my vision and she did a number of different exercises culminating in my each team member writing out a personal mission statement within the company. It was AMAZING!!!! Everyone- down to our interns had finally taken ownership of their roles. Everyone now knows where they fit in the company. Everyone is embracing the growth. For the first time- I know that my role at my company will be less and less operational and client-work and instead focused on building the company.

The atmosphere at my office has changed drastically because people finally understand my vision and have embraced it and because they understand their role. In the weeks since, there are less cries for help and more ownership and decision making without me. There are a number of meetings that have carried on without me even knowing about them within the smaller teams. The retreat took a lot of planning and was expensive. However, it was worth every penny seeing the transformation my folks had.

As we move into the 4th quarter of the year, this is a perfect time to re-engage your employees, and set your plan for 2016. Please let me know how I can help you move your organization forward, and help you to reach your greatest leadership potential.

Congrats on your success, and keep growing!


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About Successful Culture
We work with business owners, CEOs, and leadership teams that want to achieve their greatest personal & organizational potential. Through coaching, strategic consulting, retreat facilitation, and workshops, we equip leaders & emerging leaders with the mindset, tools, strategies, and processes they need to excel.

Ready to move forward? Email us today at [email protected].

Connect with me on Instragram, Facebook, and Twitter. Engage with me during my morning Periscope sessions as well (@marissalevin).

Please check out my Inc. Magazine columns on my Author Page too.
– In my latest Inc, article, I share The Essential Guide to Avoiding Workplace Text, Email, & Social Media Disasters.
– Learn about the 9 Leadership Behaviors that Lose Employee Trust & Respect here.

~Marissa Levin
CEO, Successful Culture
“Taking Leaders from Triage to Transformation.”

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